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COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC PROPERTY
NORFOLK COUNTY JOURNAL PRESS.
CITY OF ROXBURY.
In Board of Aldermen, Feb. 11, 1856.
Report read and accepted, and Order adopted ; and that two thousand
copies of the same be printed for distribution.
JOSEPH W. TUCKER, City Clerk.
Cifjj of ^o^urjr.
In Board of Aldermen, Feb. 11, 1856.
The Committee on Public Property, to whom was referred
the petition of Thomas Simmons and others ; also the
petition of Henry D. Gray and others, praying the City
Council, that the new School House on Gore Avenue
may be named the Eliot School, and also the remon-
strance of James M. Keith and others against changing
the name of said school house, have considered the sub-
ject and respectfully
The Petitioners ask that " the new School House re-
cently erected by the City on Gore Avenue may be called
the ' Eliot School,' and that the same may be so named
by the City Council."
The building to which reference is made, was finished
ready for occupancy, and delivered over to the School
Committee in March, 1855, and it appears by an inspection
of the records, that it has as yet received no name from
the City Council, owing to a division of opinion between
the two branches of the City Council of 1855.
At the first meeting of the School Committee of last
year (Jan. 3d), a period of more than two months before
the building was completed, and ready for use, an order
was offered, naming it the " Comins School." Objections
were made to the order, and it was laid over until the next
meeting (Jan. 17th), when it was taken up and passed;
twelve members being present, six voting in the affirmative.
The Chairman declared it to be a vote. That there was a
strong opposition to the name in the School Committee, as
well as in the City Council, there can be no doubt.
The only question for us to determine is, Has the School
House on Gore Avenue been named ? It is claimed that
precedent gives the School Committee the exclusive right
to name the school, and that this is the practice in many
other places. With the practice in other places, we have
nothing to do, but what has been the practice here ?
The "Central" (now in West Roxbury), the "Dudley,"
and " Washington " schools were named by the School
Committee, and these instances are cited to show that this
right belongs to that board. These schools were estab-
lished many years ago, under the town government, when
the duties of the School Committee were more arduous
and somewhat different from what they are now.
The committee then had charge of the entire appropria-
tions for Schools, contracted for the purchase of lands, for
the erection, alteration and repairs of houses, and had the
care and superintendence of the buildings, &c, and submit-
ted their report annually to the town. Upon the adoption
of the City Charter, 1846, it was found necessary to change
the practice, in order to have an uniform system of accoun-
tability in the expenditures of the city, and because the
Charter required that " the City Council should take care
that no moneys be paid from the treasury unless granted or
appropriated ; shall secure a just and proper accountabil-
ity by requiring bonds, with sufficient penalties and sureties,
from all persons trusted with the receipts and custody or
disbursement of money ; shall have the care and superin-
tendence of the city buildings, with power to let, or to sell,
what may be legally sold ; and to purchase property, real
or personal, in the name, and for the use of, the city,
whenever its interest or convenience may in their judg-
ment require it."
The School Committee desired to continue the old sys-
tem after the Charter was adopted, and one, among other
reasons, was, because the convenience of the schools and
teachers seemed to require that the committee should be
able to furnish many small articles often required, and
some small repairs which might require immediate atten-
tion. The City Council objected, and to meet this want
and to provide for any contingency of the sort, an ordi-
nance was passed July 21st, 1847, No. 22, giving the com-
mittee power to expend for the purposes therein named, a
sum not exceeding fifty dollars. The School Committee
passed a vote, "regarding with much satisfaction those
proceedings of the City* Council, by which it appears they
may be relieved from the duty of contracting for, and
superintending, the erection, repair, and alteration of
school houses, and for all labor and responsibility for the
schools, except as relates to their internal management,
and their literary and moral interest and improvement."
The first and only Grammar School house ( for a new
school) erected under the city government, was named by
the City Council, or a Joint Committee thereof. We
allude to the "Dearborn School."
Now if the action of the School Committee under the
town government is claimed as a precedent for naming
new buildings, why did not the School Committee exercise
their rights in the case of the Dearborn School? If their
rights had been invaded, why did they not protest, and
claim to exercise their authority in their own way, and
place themselves right, at least upon their own record ?
But there is no evidence of any dissatisfaction on their
part with the action of the city government j on the con-
trary, we have evidence of their cordial acquiescence, by
recognizing the name and placing it upon their own
records, and it is only a fair presumption that had the
City Council anticipated their action, and given a name to
the new school house on Gore Avenue, in accordance with
the precedent established under the Charter in the case of
the Dearborn School, they would have cordially assented
to it, and all the difficulty and strife arising from what
seems to be hasty, ill-timed, and inconsiderate action on
the part of some during the past year, both in and out o
the board, would have been avoided. There is no vote,
order, resolution, or by-law, either of the town or city, or
any statute which authorized the School Committee or the
government to perform this duty, and the authority is de-
rived from the Charter, and that alone. The usage, as we
have already stated, has varied under different forms of
government, but under the city government, in the case of
the Dearborn School, the City Council exercised the right
with the implied assent of the School Committee, they not
objecting or dissenting, but on the contrary clearly recog-
nizing and approving the act by placing the name upon
We cannot see that the right of the School Committee
would be invaded, or that it would be any violation of the
rules of courtesy, or propriety, if the City Council should
follow the only precedent established in the present case.
Upon an inspection of the proceedings of last year, in ref-
erence to this matter, we find this view sustained by the
order of the Board of Aldermen. By these records it ap-
pears that the subject occupied the attention of the gov-
ernment, at various times, and owing to a division between
the two branches, no action was matured. The history of
this matter during the past year was briefly this : The
petition of Hon. J. J. Clarke and others was presented,
and is as follows : " The subscribers, citizens of Roxbury,
deeming it fit and proper to perpetuate the names of those
whose virtues and labors have placed them high on the
record of public benefactors, and especially of such of them
as are associated with the early history of our city, and
inasmuch as in the division of the city, the school bearing
the name of Eliot was included in the town of West
Roxbury, they would respectfully request that the school
to be gathered in the house recently erected by the city
on Gore Avenue, so near the scene of the labors of that
distinguished man, may bear his venerated name, and be
known as the 'Eliot School.'" This was referred (Jan.
22d) to the Committee on Public Property, in both
At the next meeting of the government, a similar peti-
tion from Hon. Samuel Guild and others, praying that the
name of "Eliot" might be given to the school, was pre-
sented and referred to the same committee.
The committee considered the matter, and as appears
by their report, submitted Feb. 12th, by Alderman Adams,
the chairman, they were equally divided, and taking into
consideration the action of the School Committee, they
" deemed it inexpedient to take further action, and asked
to be discharged," &c, which report appears to have been
accepted. That this action was not deemed conclusive of
the whole matter, as might be inferred from the phraseol-
ogy of the report, is clear, from the fact that, on Feb. 26th,
Alderman Adams presented the following preamble and
order : " Whereas petitions have been presented to the
City Council, signed by citizens of Roxbury, praying that
the new school house recently erected on Gore Avenue
may be known as the 'Eliot School,' — therefore it is
hereby Ordered, That the new 'Grammar School House
recently erected on Gore Avenue, shall be called from this
time hereafter, the Eliot School, and be known by that
N And the order was adopted by the board, and sent
down for concurrence. The Common Council non-con-
curred. In the Common Council, same date (Feb. 26th),
it was " Ordered, That the Committee on Public Property
be instructed to procure a tablet, with the name of the
school house on Gore Avenue inscribed thereon, ' The
Comins School,' and cause the same to be placed in the
front of said school house."
This order was sent up for concurrence ; the Board of
Aldermen refused to concur, by laying the order on the
table, from whence it was never called up. This was the
action of the government of last year. It seems that they
did not regard the action of the School Committee as a
finality, but, on the contrary, the Board of Aldermen
passed an order giving the name of "Eliot" to this school,
and refused to recognize the other name designated by the
School Committee, by laying the order from the other
branch, concerning the tablet, upon the table, and taking
no further action in the matter.
The remonstrants represent, that " the care of our public
schools is by law intrusted to the School Committee, chosen
by the citizens with especial reference to their qualifications
and fitness for that trust, and the naming of the public schools
would seem to be one of the appropriate duties of their
office, &c. ; that in other cities it is usual for the School
Committee to name the schools, and that in our own they
have generally exercised that right." That the care and
superintendence of our public schools is intrusted to our
School Committee, as is provided in the eleventh section
of our City Charter, as well as by the laws of the Common-
wealth, there is no question in the mind of your committee,
and we are not aware that any doubt exists upon the
point. And if it be one of their " appropriate duties" to
name the schools, we can only say that, whatever they
have done under the town government, it is certain that
they have never claimed or exercised such a right since
the adoption of the City Charter, in 1 846, though oppor-
tunity has offered for them to do so, neither have they
remonstrated or protested against the exercise of this
right by the City Council. We do not consider it our
province to decide the question of right and duty between
the School Committee and City Council, neither are we to
determine the practice in other places. Our duties will
be sufficiently discharged by a statement of the facts
connected with the subject matter of the petitions, and
with what has been the practice here, leaving the City
Council to take such action as it shall deem proper.
In regard to the donation alluded to by the remonstrant?
the committee learn that the trust has never been accepted
by the persons indicated as trustees, that the funds have
never been in their hands, and consequently they have
never received any interest accruing from the same, nor
paid any over to promote the object specified in the
domtion. If any such interest 'has been paid, it has been
to other hands than the trustees. The fund's are not in
the custody of the city, neither has it any control over
them; that any action in relation to them by the city
government will be in accordance with right and justice
we have no doubt.
In conclusion, the committee regret the necessity for
the consideration of the question the present year, and
they trust they will not be considered as travelling out of
the path of their duty, if they add, that to suppose the
intention of the School Committee of last year to have
been to administer a rebuke to either branch of the city
government for any act of omission or commission, is to
suppose a want of courtesy on their part, inconsistent with
the rights and duties of one department to another, and as
such intent is disclaimed by individual members of the
committee of last year, it is to be hoped that no such
intent was entertained. It is to be presumed that all
public functionaries discharge their duties in an open
manly, and dignified manner, and with a single eye to the
After a careful review of the whole subject, the com-
mittee are of the opinion, that whatever the practice was
under the town government, it is apparent that since the
organization of the city government, in 1846, the School
Committee have neither claimed nor exercised that right;
that "the Dearborn School" was named by the City
Council, or a joint committee thereof; that the School
Committee offered no protest or remonstrance to the act»
but, on the contrary, gave it their implied sanction ; that
the Board of Aldermen of last year did not recognize the
regularity of the committee's proceedings, nor their binding
force, nor that they acted in accordance with precedent,
and they, therefore, sought to confer the name of Eliot
upon the school, and refused to concur with the other
branch in ordering the tablet; that the School Committee
of the present year have not claimed that the exercise of
this right by the City Council would be regarded by them
as an invasion of their rights, although they must be aware
that the subject is before the Council for action; and
believing that the school house on Gore Avenue has not
been named in accordance with usage and precedent, since
the adoption of the City Charter, and that the government
of last year, by reason of divided councils, failed to per-
form this duty, and that no violation of the rights and
duties of the School Committee will hereby be invaded,
and that it will tend to harmonize conflicting opinions, and
be in accordance with the feelings of the community, and
especially with those who take a deep interest in the
cause of education, and the welfare of our public schools,
that the name of "Eliot" so justly revered, may be placed
upon the edifice, so near the scenes of his labors, and that
his early and long continued efforts and generous aid for
extending the advantages of education in his own and all
coming time, would seem to render it a sacred duty of
the people of this city, to evince their rightful appreciation
of his worth, by commemorating his name, the committee
are induced to recommend that the prayer of the petition-
ers be granted.
In arriving at this conclusion the committee entirely
disclaim any influences of a personal, partizan, or a political
character. No considerations of this nature have had the
remotest bearing in influencing their judgment. For the
gentleman whose name was selected by the School Com-
mittee, they have a high regard, and they entertain great
respect for him as one of their fellow citizens, who has
been called to assume important public trusts in the city,
and as Representative to Congress for the Fourth District,
and they appreciate his efforts in the discharge of all his
duties to advance the interests and welfare of the com-
munity. The efforts of all our fellow citizens who have
served the city in the character of its Chief Magistrate, are
not only appreciated by those of our own time, but will
be held in grateful remembrance by those' who may come
Your committee, therefore, recommend that the prayer
of the petitioners be granted, and that the accompanying
order be adopted.
All which is respectfully submitted.
By order of the Committee,
NELSON CURTIS, Chairman.
CITY OF EOXBUKY.
In Board of Aldermen, Feb. 11, 1856.
Ordered, That the School House recently erected by the City on Gore
Avenue, be and the same is hereby known as the " Eliot School ;" and
that the Committee on Public Property cause a suitable tablet to be
inserted in the exterior walls of the building, of such kind of stone as
aaid Committee may deem proper, on which the name of the School,
and the year in which the building was erected, shall be cut, and that
the expense thereof be defrayed from any moneys in the treasury not
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